Analysis: For Biles, peace comes with a price - the gold

Author : kanwerlop
Publish Date : 2021-07-28


Analysis: For Biles, peace comes with a price - the gold

When you spend the better part of a decade redefining the possible within your sport, the standards change. Good is no longer good enough. Sometimes, great isn’t either.

Simone Biles received a crash course on it five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

The American gymnastics star had already won three gold medals at the 2016 Olympics when she began her routine in the beam finals. Midway through her set, the then 19-year-old lost her balance, as tends to happen when trying to execute world-class skills on a piece of wood narrower than the average iPhone. She reached down to steady herself, preserving a bronze in the process.

She was pumped. Others weren’t.
nternally, however, things were shifting. Her performances during the spring competition were ... OK, at least by her standards. Yes, she drilled her Yurchenko double pike vault when she unveiled it in May. She also fell off uneven bars the same night. During the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, she actually finished behind Olympic teammate Sunisa Lee on the final day of the competition, the first time that’s happened in eight years.

Things didn’t get any better in Tokyo. Biles topped qualifying as usual but an uncharacteristically messy block on her Cheng vault sent her nearly sideways off the table. She bounded all the way off the competition mat following one tumbling pass on floor. She carried so much momentum on her beam dismount she took three huge steps backward.

Something wasn’t right. The doubts that have cropped up at times during her career re-emerged. And rather than brush them back, she accepted their presence. They lingered when she walked onto the floor Tuesday for the team final. Her warm-up wasn’t great. Her vault was even worse, as the planned 2 1/2 twists of her Amanar became 1 1/2 instead.

This wasn’t the first time she felt like this. She was a newly minted senior elite at the U.S. Classic in 2013. Things went badly. She fell on each of the first three events. Then coach Aimee Boorman withdrew the 16-year-old from the competition in an effort to protect her from herself.

Asked on Tuesday night if there were any similarities between that long night in Chicago, Biles laughed.

“I was dumb and stupid (back then),” she said. “I was pulled out. I wanted to go out there and compete.”

She’s not “dumb and stupid” anymore. As she sat down with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin while waiting for her score to flash inside a stunned, fan-less Ariake Gymnastics Center, she realized she could no longer push through as she’s done so many times before. Too much was on the line both mentally and physically. For her team. And for herself.

A gymnast flying through the air without any idea of where she might be going is a dangerous thing. Biles bent gravity to her will so easy for so long, people forgot there’s no such thing as autopilot.

She didn’t. So she stopped. Right there. Right then. Who knows if it’s the last time she’ll be seen in a competition leotard. She withdrew from Thursday’s all-around final. Next week’s event finals are a mystery.

It’s a decision she is ready to live with. Standing next to her teammates with a silver medal slung around her neck on Tuesday, she finally realized whether everybody else can is their problem, not hers.


“People were really upset,” Biles told The Associated Press in May. “I’m like, ‘Guys it’s still a medal for the country and it’s still a medal for myself.’ If anybody else was going to get bronze they would have been cheering but it was Simone so they were, like, pissed.”
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‘OK not to be OK’: Mental health takes top role at Olympics
By JENNA FRYER
today
Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo. Biles says she wasn't in right 'headspace' to compete and withdrew from gymnastics team final to protect herself. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo. Biles says she wasn't in right 'headspace' to compete and withdrew from gymnastics team final to protect herself. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
TOKYO (AP) — For decades, they were told to shake it off or toughen up — to set aside the doubt, or the demons, and focus on the task at hand: winning. Dominating. Getting it done.

For years, Simone Biles was one of the very best at that. Suddenly — to some, shockingly — she decided she wasn’t in the right headspace.

By pulling on her white sweatsuit in the middle of Tuesday night’s Olympic gymnastics meet, and by doing it with a gold medal hanging in the balance, Biles might very well have redefined the mental health discussion that’s been coursing through sports for the past year.

Michael Phelps, winner of a record 23 gold medals and now retired, has long been open about his own mental health struggles. Phelps has said he contemplated suicide after the 2012 Olympics while wracked with depression. Now an analyst for NBC’s swimming coverage, he said watchi



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